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Puzzlewood is located in Gloucestershire
Puzzlewood in Gloucestershire
Part of Puzzlewood showing a typical scene of tree roots, rocks and moss
Puzzlewood (Andy Dingley).jpg

Puzzlewood (grid reference SO578092) is an ancient woodland site and tourist attraction, near Coleford in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England.[1][2] The site, covering 14 acres (5.7 ha), shows evidence of open cast iron ore mining dating from the Roman period, and possibly earlier.

Over a mile of pathways were laid down in the early 19th century to provide access to the woods, and provide picturesque walks. The area contains strange rock formations, secret caves and ancient trees, with a confusing maze of paths. Puzzlewood is said to be one of J. R. R. Tolkien's inspirations[3] for Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings, especially Mirkwood.

The site is listed in the 'Forest of Dean Local Plan Review'.[4][clarification needed]


The geological features on show at Puzzlewood are known as scowles. Scowles originated through the erosion of natural cave systems formed in the Carboniferous Limestone many millions of years ago. Uplift and erosion caused the cave system to become exposed at the surface. This was then exploited by Iron Age settlers through to Roman times for the extraction of iron ore. It is usually impossible to date open cast extraction precisely, although ores with a chemical signature consistent with those from the Forest of Dean were certainly used to make tools and weapons in the late prehistoric period.[5]

"The Puzzlewood Treasure"Edit

Over 3,000 Roman-era coins were found by workers in 1848. The coins were stored in three earthenware jars in a cavity in the rock formations. The origin of the coins is unknown.[6]

Literary influencesEdit

J. R. R. Tolkien was a frequent visitor to the Forest of Dean. Puzzlewood was the inspiration for the forests of Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings, such as the Old Forest, Mirkwood, Fangorn or Lothlórien. Tolkien may also have been inspired by the less well known scowles on the grounds of Lydney Park. When The Lord of the Rings was named Britain's favourite book in the "Big Read", Puzzlewood was used by Ray Mears to champion Tolkien's work.[citation needed]

Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling has also visited Puzzlewood. The Forbidden Forest within the series bears some similarities to the geography of the area.[citation needed]

Filming locationEdit

Puzzlewood was used as a filming location for many episodes of BBC TV show Merlin, "The Labyrinth of Gedref" and "The Nightmare Begins",[7] and also the 2010 Doctor Who episode "Flesh and Stone" and the 2013 Doctor Who Christmas Special "The Time of the Doctor"[8] as well as "The Huntsman: Winter's War" and the BBC's 2016 adaptation A Midsummer Night's Dream. More recently it was used as a film location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.[9][10]


  1. ^ "Puzzlewood attraction". Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  2. ^ "Area map with overviews". Custom dress shIrts. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  3. ^ Reference to Tolkien's inspiration Archived 9 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine[failed verification]
  4. ^ Forest of Dean District Local Plan Review, adopted November 2005, Appendix D 'Nature Conservation Site Designations Within the Forest of Dean District', Regionally important Geological Sites (RIGS), Item 22
  5. ^ "Gloucestershire County Council Information Sheet: The Scowles of the Forest of Dean". Archived from the original on 18 August 2006. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  6. ^ "The Wood – a brief history". Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  7. ^ BBC Merlin filming locations Archived 11 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Doctor Who: Behind the scenes at Puzzlewood". BBC. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  9. ^ "Be Transported into your very own Star Wars Film in Puzzlewood". Visit England. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  10. ^ "Star Wars: Puzzlewood 'magical' location for filming". BBC News. 17 December 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.

External linksEdit